Scrolling through Facebook this afternoon, I came across the following Slate article: When You’re Poor, Life’s Little Annoyances Actually Ruin Your Life. Reading this, I find myself reflecting on my own life – my background, my life choices, privileges I’ve been afforded, and how easily my life could have been very different.
Socio-Economic Status, or SES, is basically an individual’s or family’s economic and social position in relation to others, based on income, education, and occupation. And this is relative. As a nation, the United States is fairly well-off. As well, our perceptions of where we fit along that spectrum will vary based on where we are compared to those around us. This accounts for why sometimes people who seem to have a much higher SES can still feel they have less if they are surrounded by others who have even more. This is why there are Americans who complain about, say, not having a tech gadget while there are many other people (including fellow Americans) that are starving. Chances are the guy upset about his tablet doesn’t have as much interaction with the guy that can’t afford to keep his utilities on.
There is a running joke between my boyfriend any I that anything over $30 is a major purchase. This is because we come from different SE backgrounds. I grew up in a series of trailer homes and other rentals, moving around frequently. My parents divorced when I was young, so I was raised by my single mother and her parents. I went to public school and was taught to stretch money out by repairing, recycling, or doing without. On the other hand, my boyfriend’s parents remained together, they owned their own home, and he was able to attend a private high school. He doesn’t do much in the way of repairing or recycling. As a result, the ways in which we view and spend money tend to be different.
On the other hand, my own adult life is so different from that of my parents that I run into the same thing from the other side. When my mother was my age, she had 2 children (I was 9, my brother was 5), was separated and on the verge of divorce, driving some beat up vehicle, and working whatever job she could just to make ends meet. While she had some college, she had never graduated. My life went in a different direction. I have my BA, I’m fortunate enough to be working a job I like, have never married or had children, and have the income and credit that allowed me a buy a new car with all the warranties and a maintenance package.
I’m not really sure if there’s a point to be made with any of this, but, this is what is going through my head at the moment. I’m thankful to be in a position where I have (so far) successfully done better than my parents (which, I am led to believe, is every parent’s hope for their kids) while not taking that for granted. I’m cognizant of the fact that, while I have worked and continue to work hard, there is no such thing as “self-made”. I grew up in a home environment that valued reading and education, I had adults that were able to help me with my homework, I had access to resources via the local libraries and schools that were paid for with tax dollars, I was eligible for need-based financial aid to go to college, and there are plenty of privileges I’ve had and things I haven’t had to worry about because I’m white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, and happened to have been born in a time and place where women had relatively more rights and freedoms.